If at first you don’t succeed try try try try ad-infinitum again

With predictable, wearisome regularity we in Scotland now find ourselves coerced into yet another ‘if at first you don’t succeed try again’ extended lockdown.

As an antidote to the virus, lockdown has repeatedly failed. Indeed, it has taken on the destructive character of an uncontrolled virus relentlessly ruining lives, livelihoods and economy. Alternative solutions proposed by prominent virologists, epidemiologists and other professionals are consistently rejected, solutions that have succeeded in similar circumstances elsewhere at other times. I speak as one who worked within an inhospitable environment where, among other contagions, there was an outbreak of tuberculosis, which we quickly and successfully addressed without lockdown and associated restrictions. Repeatedly rejecting these alternatives means hindering the potential to restore our lives back to normal sooner rather than whenever. In the meantime, the ruinous effect of intensified lockdown continues.

For example, the dedication that cardiologists, neurologists, cancer specialists, therapists, GPs and pharmacists etc have invested in patients coping with vascular disease and cancer is undermined. Likewise, the closure of gyms and swimming pools that aid rehabilitation and prevention. Shortly before Christmas I appealed to the First Minister via the office’s message site to consider exempting these facilities from closure on health grounds but as yet have received no reply. Their remaining closed is likely as good an answer I’ll get. I also wrote to the MP who did take the time to reply in detail, which consisted of nothing surprising, but at least he expressed empathy. An email to the MSP (Member of Scottish Parliament) went unanswered. One out of three is quite an indictment on our professed representative democracy especially at this time when we are regularly told by the Prime Minister that ‘we’re in this together.’

The daily barrage of negative reporting, shrill headlines and recorded supermarket directives etc that leap into our hearing and vision uninvited pose a threat particularly to young, impressionable minds that ought to be fed with hope not hopelessness, empathy not apathy and optimism not pessimism etc. The National Child Mortality Database identified an increase in suicides among under 18s during the first phase of lockdown. There has also been an increase in the numbers harbouring thoughts of suicide. So tragic. It’s not just under 18s. A young man within my daughter’s social circle recently committed suicide leaving behind a wife and young family.

We hear voices loud and clear from advocates of restrictions but rarely if ever are we allowed to hear the broken-hearted voices of families fatally affected by them. When their needless loss is taken into consideration  the ‘Save lives’ slogan sounds, to say the least, vacuous. It affects young children too.

One wonders what bewildered looking infants feel when they look up at adult faces not knowing how to react because they are unable to see the expressions hidden behind masks. What a visual memory these children are going to grow up and cope with.  
Semantics too is now subtly and not so subtly employed providing the excuse to extend lockdown. Vague words and terms such as ‘data’ ‘cases’ ‘variants’ ‘strains’ ‘death where covid has been mentioned on the death certificate’ ‘stubbornly high figures’ ‘persistent problem’ ‘could be wearing masks forever’ ‘the vaccination might not stop transmission’ and so on. The use of weak rather than definitive modal verbs too such as  might, would and could are par for the course.

The longer this harmful ‘try try again’ approach goes on the likelihood of widespread cognitive dissonance in the aftermath  when people will continue to wear masks knowing they don’t need to, wearing them on the streets when they’re not nor ever have been required to. Such is the sorry state of a society denied empathy, clarity, hope and even honesty but instead is force fed fear and intimidation, features one would expect to find in an abusive relationship.

In closing, advocates of the restrictions would do well to note the words of Benjamin Flanklin; ‘Any society that will give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” As W.W Jacobs warned: “Be careful what you wish for, you may receive it.” I along with many others sense we already have even though we never asked for it.

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An impersonal world

The assumption by businesses that everyone who calls them by phone has access to the internet must be frustrating for people who don’t. I phoned one of the leading supermarket chains this morning to enquire about a mislaid item. The impersonal, monotone robotic voice that answered without any greeting directed me script fashion to the store’s main website and store locator then abruptly ended the call. I was struck by the thought of how frustrating it must be for people who still use landlines and have no access to the internet to pursue enquiries etc. They are effectively excluded from the market place, so to speak. It’s the same with the present situation where many outlets are only accepting contactless cards as payment. I observed one lad in a wheelchair who only had cash, which seemed to annoy the shop owner who responded impatiently and impolitely. I was ready to step in and help the lad out in the situation but the shop owner was overwhelmed by a fleeting feeling of goodness to ‘accept cash on this occasion.’ How magnanimous of him.  This contactless situation brought to mind Revelations 13: 16-18 which speaks of a time when no one will be able to buy or sell unless they bear a number. Appears that we’re fast approaching this time thanks in part to the largely exaggerated response to the Coronovirus i.e shutting healthy young people away in their homes; socially destructive social distancing (unscientific) and tanking the economy. No wonder the writer of Revelations could say ‘Come quickly, Jesus, come!’ I’m inclined to echo this call for His return.

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Social distancing can be unsocial.

While I understand the principle behind the idea of social distancing I’m discovering all too often that it the distance is more than counted in metres. Fear, suspicion and paranoia are the negative measurements included. A man leapt away from me in a supermarket because he felt I’d stepped closer to him than the prescribed distance. As he did so he snarled “Get away from me!” as if I were a leper. I was taken aback by his action and attitude. I responded firmly telling him to get a grip. In the car park I asked a man for his empty trolley he was wheeling back to the bay. All he needed to do was push it towards me and walk away but instead he muttered some gibberish and darted to his right and past me in a half-moon direction. Thankfully the woman behind him was more sociable, gently pushing her empty trolley towards me. A sullen till operator glared at me and snapped interrogatively “How are you paying?” In response I wanted to dump the shopping on the belt and simply walk away. People have crossed to the other side of the road to avoid me; refused to cross the pedestrian bridge from the opposite side until I’ve crossed and just before I did the person stepped back a few yards. I smiled only to  receive a hesitant glance in return.

All this Vera Lynn ‘We’ll Meet Again’ sentimentalisation of the lock-down makes me cringe in the light of my experience. By the way, my late Father was a gunner during WWII. He dismissed this song and others of that ilk because he felt they made light the grim, brutality of what he had experienced and never fully recovered from.

Will healthy social interaction fully recover from the end of social distancing? If it ever ends at all at least sub-consciously.

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Still standing

‘Dodged a bullet’ as the saying goes.

Mercifully still standing but not on my legs alone for sure.

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Selling one’s self cheap

Or rather throwing your value as you would throw a handful of crumbs to birds. A friend finally gave vent to her despair at my enduring habit of undervaluing myself. “Stop throwing yourself at people,” she blurted out, “They are the ones who should throw themselves at you because it’s you that has the skill they need to learn from. You have value!” she asserted with firmness. What sparked this reaction was her observing me repeatedly reminding someone that I was still available to teach him the specific subject he was keen to learn. She saw this as grovelling on my part; a humiliating of myself; selling myself cheap. She had also observed my tendency to undervalue my art a skill she is keen to promote more effectively on my behalf. Then there are my academic achievements that I also undervalue in her estimation not to mention my reluctance to use my title (Reverend). She’s not saying I ought to go around blowing my trumpet but rather realise my value and stop chasing people. Since heeding her injunction I’ve discovered just how productive and liberating it has been. Do you realise your value?

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08/25/2018 · 11:08 am

Bright yet Dark, Free yet Captured

broken-chainsA couple of days a week I stand across the road from a shopping mall to distribute leaflets and other pieces of literature on behalf of a local church. Recently a young, diminutive woman dressed in cheerful summer attire walked past me. As she did so she kept looking back slowing down to a halt. ‘You’re hesitating,’ I called out with a smile. She walked back and peered at the church’s name on the front of my red hi-vi jacket. ‘I know where that church is,’ she said, ‘but I can’t stop because my partner is a controlling man and he doesn’t like me talking to strangers.’ Her body trembled and she shiftily glanced around as she spoke. Having told me this she made to leave but then stepped forward again to take one of my leaflets. ‘I’ll come to church,’ she remarked. ‘You’ll be made very welcome,’ I replied. Picking up on my accent she – still glancing around – told me her grandmother was Scottish and that she had loved the way she said ‘Awright, hen?’ to her, which is a term of endearment for females in Scotland. She then told me that she was a descendent from the French Huguenots who had King Henry VIII to thank for their survival. Again she made to leave repeating albeit conditionally this time that she would try and get to the church but again she stepped  forward to nervously continue the history lesson. Sensing her fear and not wanting to keep her in that state – this encounter took place in a busy street – I offered her a copy of the New Testament as a parting gift. She was speechless and genuinely moved by the offer a reaction that indicated this sad woman longed to be genuinely loved, to be set free from captivity and find peace in her life. Tucking the book into her shoulder bag she thanked me and set off and disappeared into the throng all the while checking around her. This young woman with the world at her feet was dressed in the height of colourful summer fashion yet its brightness was betrayed by the darkness of fear and cruelty.

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The assailant’s hand offered death, a Mother’s hand offered grace in return.

via The assailant’s hand offered death, a Mother’s hand offered grace in return.

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06/27/2018 · 8:46 am

The assailant’s hand offered death, a Mother’s hand offered grace in return.

The spectre of knife crime hovers over Wandsworth, London. One Mother affected by its deadly presence responds.
I was privileged to meet Mrs Jennifer Beckford yesterday (18th June) at the church I am attached to as an outreach worker. She and her husband lost their beloved son Nicholas to a knife attack in 2014. In spite of coping with the devastation of such a loss they are nonetheless in the process of setting up the Nicholas Stewart Project, which they plan to locate in the disreputable estate where the crime took place. The project offers young people education, training, personal development and employment opportunities. It also offers support to parents affected by violent crime. Mrs Beckford has been garnering material and practical support from churches, agencies, outlets and individuals from within the district.

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Any budding Josephs, Daniels or Jungians out there to interpret this dream?

Whenever I’ve dreamt of the office where I formerly worked (I’ve dreamt of it numerous times since leaving in 1992) I was strictly treated as an outsider by staff; no one talked or took notice of me. In real life this was not entirely true; I got along fine with a few of the men and women. However, in last night’s dream I was accepted by all. When I’ve left this office in previous dreams to go home it’s been late at night and either without bike lights or just missed the last bus. The way home was too dark to risk cycling hence I was stranded once again. In last night’s dream I left the office carrying a patchwork quilt like the one I actually own. I stepped out of the door to be immediately faced by a rocky incline from the door to the peak that looked like the top of a lengthy wall. Ascending its rough surface wasn’t easy. My legs felt very heavy almost too heavy to take a step. On the way up a woman drew near from the side and placed her cool cheek against mine and said something and backed off. I could not make out what it was she said. I finally trudged my way to the top to discover houses and other buildings on the other side. Still holding the blanket I dropped down onto the road below, stood upright and looked ahead at the darkened row of houses running across the entry to the dimly lit road where I stood. I didn’t recognise them nor did I know where I was. A woman from the office came up from behind and walked past. I reached out to take her hand as she did so but quickly withdrew it. I wasn’t sure how she’d react. Besides, she never noticed me. She disappeared round the corner leaving me standing alone in this strange, unfamiliar, silent dimly lit street with not another soul in sight.

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